Inventions that went backward

What are some progressive inventions that lacked key components of what they replaced?

For example, black and white photography added realism and immediacy, but it replaced paintings, which were in color.

Automobiles no longer produced free fertilizer.

Well, in the same vein, early TV was visually far worse than what was possible in the movies at the time. Actually, that’s still true.

All recordings of sound were inferior to the real thing for the longest time. I assume by now the best technology can fool even the well trained ear.

Cell phones have many, many advantages over landlines, but “functions well as a phone” isn’t one of them.

Aside: I can’t remember the last time I actually made a phone call on my phone. Use it as a map, an audiobook and music player, a text-messager, a weather station, sure…

When first released ball point pens struggled with the issue of delivering a consistent flow of ink compared to fountain pens and consequently had the capability to immediately generate 6 carbon paper copies but no original.

Paper Straws

Lack the ease of use and reliability of plastic straws. Of course this is more of an environmental concern.

To be fair, some inventions are meant to go backwards: introducing the reverse gear.

Now people mostly stream music they want to listen to. Which is very convenient in terms of selection-- but the audio quality is not as high as CDs.

When CDs replaced the vinyl LP, a lot of people complained that the sound of CDs were inferior, not as “warm” or something, but I thought a properly mastered CD sounded much better than a vinyl LP.

How so? Other than the fact that thy can’t be used to bludgeon someone to death, of course.

The first ones could.

I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember but in the early 1980s, ads for Memorex brand audio cassettes asked, “Is it live or is it Memorex?”

Plenty old enough. Tapes were certainly clearer than phonographs, and exhibited high fidelity once the audio equipment had evolved sufficiently to record and replay that level of quality. They also played a recording of Ella Fitzgerald holding a high note and causing a glass to shatter. I always wondered if that was the reproduction of her voice or just the amplification making the glass shatter.

No, they weren’t.

Tapes didn’t pop, didn’t get scratched easily, didn’t warp if you didn’t store them properly, and were much easier to carry around. And you could record them yourself.

Vinyl had a slightly better frequency response and a slightly better dynamic range, and also lacked the high frequency hiss common to tapes (but had worse rumble). Vinyl sounded a bit better but was less convenient to use.

Almost certainly the amplification. Ella’s voice through a mic, amplified and played through speakers will shatter glass, as will a decent tape amplified and played through speakers.

Mythbusters proved that it is actually possible for someone with a strong enough voice to break a wine glass without amplification, but it’s a bit tricky even for someone of Ella’s caliber of talent. Since Ella wasn’t available, they used a rock singer instead.

Electric cars have a notably shorter range and longer fill time than IC vehicles.

Most modern cars get worse gas mileage than my 1974 Beetle.

(To be fair, they stopped producing the old Beetle when emissions rules became too strict, there’s no easy way to make that old air-cooled engine pass anything close to modern emissions requirement)

I bet Ian Gillan in his prime could have made a glass shatter.

In many cases, even poorer voice quality than a landline call, and a tendency to “cut off” someone’s voice signal if two people are talking at the same time.

Ok sure, under ideal circumstances. On typical audio equipment maybe you can play that LP a few times with better quality than a tape. After a few plays I think the results will be different. Given a typical LP and a cassette tape picked at random from across the country I’m sure a tape will better reproduce the sound originally recorded than the phonograph will unless you are recording some Rice Krispies going snap, crackle, and pop.